Argentina is a vast land of cattle ranches, wide rivers and endless horizons. The continent’s largest Spanish-speaking country offers a remarkable diversity of landscape, including Iguazu Falls, with nearby ruins of Jesuit missions, ancient colonial and remote Indian villages of the north-west province, the Andes Mountains, which form a 2,000 mile frontier with Chile in the west and windswept Patagonia in the south.
Reminiscent of 1930’s Paris, Buenos Aires has become a cosmopolitan melting pot. La Boca, with its quaint, brightly painted houses, is the Italian quarter and birthplace of the evocative Tango. By contrast on the other side of town, Recoleta is the most exclusive suburb, one of its most prominent attractions being the cemetery where Eva Peron’s mausoleum is to be found. Harrods and the Claridge Hotel bear testimony to British influence that dates back almost 200 years and there are first class venues to watch polo at Palermo Park, or Hurlingham, where cricket and golf are also played. One of the world’s great opera houses is the Teatro Colon which, irrespective of concerts, operas and ballet, is open daily to visitors. No stay in the capital is complete without a visit to a Tango show; while dancers give impromptu shows every Sunday morning in the San Telmo district. Traditionally, Argentines are meat eaters and the visitor will find no shortage of excellent beef restaurants in the city that never sleeps. View Argentina in a larger map
The North West
The earliest settlements were established by Spanish conquistadores in the far north-west, the first expedition arriving from Peru in 1536. Little remains from the colonial era in the towns of Jujuy and Santiago del Estero, where wars and earthquakes have taken a heavy toll. However, Salta still retains a number of fine old buildings and is best explored on foot. The much smaller settlements at Humahuaca, with its narrow cobbled streets and Tilcara Fortress, lie against a backdrop of open landscapes and brightly coloured eroded cliffs. Tren a las Nubes, or Train to the Clouds offers an unforgettable journey, ascending to almost 4,000 metres before reaching the small Andean town of San Antonio de los Cobres.
Bariloche and the Lake District
Overlooking Lake Nahuel Huapi and close to the premier ski resorts, the picturesque town of Bariloche, surrounded by snow-capped peaks, is the focal point for a wide range of outdoor pursuits, among them hiking, skiing and golf. This is also the gateway through the Andes to Chile by way of the scenic ‘Lake Crossing’, a full day’s trip by a series of bus and boat journeys to the Pacific coastal town of Puerto Montt. To the north, some of the best trout rivers throughout Latin America are to be found around the town of San Martin de los Andes. South of Bariloche, La Trochita, the Old Patagonian Express, immortalised by the novelist Paul Theroux, departs weekly in season to Esquel.
Misiones Province and Iguazu
Set amid sub-tropical rainforest and bordering both Paraguay and Brazil, Iguazu Falls dominates the north-eastern quarter of Argentina. The area was originally inhabited by Guarani Indians - much later came the Jesuits, who set up the missions after which the province is named. Iguazu Falls are a quite spectacular sight, forming an almost obligatory ingredient in any itinerary to Argentina and, whilst ideally best appreciated from both sides, the Argentine side with its walkways offers the visitor a more comprehensive experience.
Every year between July and November, the Atlantic coastline of the tiny settlement of Puerto Piramides becomes home to Southern Right Whales following their migration north from feeding grounds in the Antarctic. An excursion in small boats to view these magnificent creatures from close quarters is a truly exhilirating experience. Other wildlife to be seen in the area includes elephant seals, sea lions and a colony of Magellanic penguins at Punta Tombo.
Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego
Sheep stations and trout rivers predominate in the huge tract of southern Argentina known as Patagonia. Excursions among the icefields of Los Glaciares National Park include cruises and even hiking on the glaciers themselves, most notably Perito Moreno. The nearest town is Calafate, generally reached by road from Rio Gallegos. Ushuaia is the capital of Tierra del Fuego and the point of access for camping, walking and canoeing in Lapataia National Park. It is also the port from which boat trips may be made into the Beagle Channel and beyond to Punta Arenas aboard the ‘Terra Australis’.